This electronic newsletter is an opportunity for you to learn more about what we’ve accomplished in Illinois government, and how you can get involved. Whether it’s volunteering in a Serve Illinois volunteer project, receiving state services, or learning about new laws and programs, I want to ensure that you know what’s happening in your government.
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On April 1 Governor Quinn announced his new Welcome Home Illinois loan program to help make home ownership a reality for first time home buyers. The program provides $7,500 in down payment assistance with interest rates as low as 3.99 percent for a secure, 30-year fixed mortgage. The announcement is another key component of Governor Quinn’s agenda to drive economic growth by making home ownership more affordable in Illinois.
Welcome Home Illinois is open to qualified Illinois first-time home buyers on a first-come, first-served basis. The program is funded through Illinois Jobs Now! and the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Interested home buyers can find additional details about the program and a list of lenders at: welcomehomeillinois.gov
During April Governor Quinn visited four universities across the state to discuss his plan to double the state’s investment in the Monetary Award Program (MAP) over the next five years. Governor Quinn’s plan, in the first year alone, will provide 21,000 more students with an opportunity to attend college who otherwise may have not had the means to attend.
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), which administers the MAP program, received a record number of eligible MAP applications this year, up eight percent from last year. Students can apply for MAP, Pell Grants and other forms of financial aid by completing and filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA). Contact ISAC at (800) 899-4722 or visit http://www.isac.org/ for more information.
On April 7 Governor Quinn announced $100 million from the Illinois Jobs Now! construction program to repair municipal and township infrastructure throughout the state. The funding will be used to help communities throughout Illinois combat potholes and make other critical infrastructure repairs following the historic winter weather Illinois faced.
On April 8 Governor Quinn joined local elected officials to recognize Equal Pay Day and raise awareness of the disparity that remains between workplace earnings among women and men. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois women still earn just 78 cents of every dollar earned by Illinois men based on the median weekly earnings of full-time workers.
The Illinois Department of Labor enforces the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which was enacted to help close the wage gap between men and women. IDOL has successfully recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages for women who were paid less than their male co-workers for doing the same work. Governor Quinn’s observance of Equal Pay Day is the latest in his drive to protect and empower women in Illinois.
On April 9, Governor Pat Quinn unveiled a six-year, $8.6 billion construction program aimed at improving roads and bridges throughout Illinois while making major investments in public transportation. The projects are part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and build a 21st century infrastructure that will drive Illinois’ economy forward. For a list of projects included in the construction program, visit http://www.dot.il.gov/press/MYPhighlights.pdf.
On April 10 Governor Quinn announced a $223 million state capital investment that will create hundreds of jobs and restart Amtrak service between Rockford and Chicago beginning in 2015. The new route will be the first time Rockford has had round-trip passenger rail service to Chicago. Service will be expanded west the following year to connect Rockford to Dubuque, Iowa.
Governor Quinn proclaimed the month of April “Work Zone Safety Month.” In conjunction with this observance, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, the Illinois Tollway and key highway safety partners kicked off National Work Zone Awareness Week, which ran from April 7 – 11. The collaborative campaign raised awareness of “No Cell Phones in Work Zones” and the “Move Over Law,” both designed to decrease the number and severity of crashes on Illinois roadways.
On April 12 Governor Quinn promoted autism awareness at Brookfield Zoo, declaring the day Autism Awareness Day throughout the state of Illinois. In honor of the Autism Awareness Day, Brookfield Zoo provided a day to help children with autism connect to animals, the natural world and each other. Brookfield Zoo is also responsible for sponsoring a first-of-its-kind pilot program to turn the lights in zoos blue in order to increase autism awareness. Governor Quinn has been recognized both nationally and locally as a champion for people with disabilities.
On April 16 Governor Quinn addressed the Small Business Advocacy Council, offering his continued support for small businesses in Illinois. Governor Quinn’s initiatives have helped small businesses start and expand in Illinois, and proposals he unveiled in his recent Budget Address will continue to improve the state’s small business environment.
Illinois’s economic recovery has been fueled by the success of small businesses. Illinois was recently ranked third in the US for new corporate locations and expansions by Site Selection magazine. The Governor has launched several programs aimed at promoting the success of small businesses, and one of the most notable, Advantage Illinois, has helped almost 200 small businesses create or retain more than 3,800 jobs since its creation in 2011.
On April 16 Governor Quinn and Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider announced the release of the Illinois Bike Transportation Plan, the first statewide bicycle plan in Illinois’ history. The plan includes over 200 recommendations and action items to enhance IDOT’s ability to provide safe and cost-effective accommodations for cyclists across the state. Secretary Schneider and Governor Quinn believe that the bike plan will ensure that Illinois remains a model of excellence in sustainable transportation. The complete plan and accompanying technical documents can be found online at: www.IllinoisBikePlan.com.
In honor of Earth Month, Governor Quinn visited a volunteer clean up event at Chicago’s Oak Street Beach where he announced a $1.6 million investment in environmental and education projects along the Lake Michigan shoreline and in the Millennium Reserve-Calumet region. The project will be funded through the Illinois Coastal Management Program, which was formed in 2012 by Governor Quinn to protect Illinois’ 63-mile Lake Michigan Shoreline.